Listeriosis – Chile

6 cases of Listeria infections in Coquimbo, Chile linked to the contamination of food.

Symptoms can include vomiting, nausea, fever, muscle aches, headache, and neck stiffness. Those who are immunocompromised or young children are at risk of severe illness.

Health officials have advised the population to keep dairy products and cured meats refrigerated and to follow sanitary conditions.

Photo: Listeria monocytogenes.

Food items likely to be contaminated with Listeria include ready-to-eat refrigerated meat products, such as smoked salmon, sushi, and cold-cut meats that do not require further cooking before eating, refrigerated pates or meat spreads, unpasteurized (raw) milk and dairy products, such as soft cheeses, and raw fruits and vegetables (such as sprouts).

Even if initial contamination adds only a few Listeria organisms to the food, the contamination can be significant for refrigerated foods because the bacteria can multiply at refrigerator temperatures to a sufficient number to cause disease.

People at increased risk for disseminated listeriosis, which include pregnant women (and their newborns), adults aged 65 years or older, and people with weakened immune systems, should avoid eating food potentially contaminated with Listeria.

Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical treatment and tell their doctors about the possible Listeria exposure.

Also, anyone who has eaten of a recalled product should monitor themselves for symptoms during the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop.

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache, and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people such as cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illnesses, life-threatening infections and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth.

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